Contending for the faith | Making Disciples | Equipping the Saints for Ministry

   by Jeannette Haley

  One of the things most of us take for granted is water. We assume that when we turn on the tap, water will automatically flow. Of course, people who depend upon well-water can know what it means to suddenly be without this life-giving substance.

   Years ago, I lived in a less-populated, wooded area in Washington State. Water was supplied from a river through an antiquated system of wooden pipes which regularly broke down. It was not only frustrating to be without water for uncomfortable periods of time, but when the water did flow, it was often muddy and unfit to drink. I’m sure that if the people who used water from that undependable water system could examine it under a microscope, they would never consume a drop of it again.

   Drought is an even worse situation than muddy water. At least muddy water is better than no water at all, because it can be filtered and sterilized, rendering it somewhat safe to drink. But, when there is a drought condition, water is more precious than gold. Nothing can live without it. Water is what sets our planet apart from the lifeless planets in our solar system.

   Throughout the Bible, water is illustrative of spiritual truths, and is emblematic of Jesus, the Living Water. Just as our bodies cry out for water, so too, our spirits depend upon the Living Water. Jesus said, “…whosoever drinketh of the water that I shall give him shall never thirst; but the water that I shall give him shall be in him a well of water springing up into everlasting life” John 4:14.

   What we have discovered, however, is that people must actually develop a thirst, or desire, for both physical water and spiritual water. It may sound humorous, but it is true that God put four rivers in the Garden of Eden instead of three pop machines and a Starbucks. Today, mankind’s “four rivers” can be found in the four Gospels where we discover the true fountain of Living Water.

   Both physical and spiritual thirst for pure water must be developed. The more a person drinks water, the more his or her body will begin to thirst for it. Eventually, nothing else will satisfy. The same is true spiritually. In order to create spiritual drought in a Christian’s life, all she or he has to do is to deny the soul’s craving for communion with the Living Water through prayer and meditation upon the Word of God. Just as sugary or man-made drinks deny the body’s cells the water it needs in order to be cleansed and healthy, so too do “syrupy” and counterfeit spiritual “drinks” contaminate the believer’s soul and produce a weak, sickly Christian spiritually. This is not only true of individuals, but of whole nations as well.

    We read in Jeremiah 2:9, 11, 12, 13: “Wherefore I will yet plead with you, saith the LORD, and with your children’s children will I plead. Hath a nation changed their gods, which are yet no gods? But my people have changed their glory for that which doth not profit. Be astonished, O ye heavens, at this, and be horribly afraid, be ye very desolate, saith the LORD. For my people have committed two evils; they have forsaken me the fountain of living waters, and hewed them out cisterns, broken cisterns, that can hold no water.”

   Is not the Lord so pleading with, and warning, His children in America today? Can God possibly be pleased with those who claim to be Christians, yet whose life goals are to pursue the “American Dream” and who are motivated by covetousness which is idolatry?

   The glory of America was her dependency upon, and deep reverence for the Almighty: obedience to His Word through adherence to biblical principles of morality, a burning desire to win the lost to Christ, and concern for the poor. But, just as the tares grow up among the wheat, there has always been an element of ungodly, self-serving, immoral, “sons of Belial” (or worthless persons) among us. However, they were the minority. Not so today. We are a divided nation. What has happened to the glory that America once had?

   The blame lies, in Jeremiah’s day, at the doorstep of God’s people. First, there has been a forsaking of the fountain of living waters, and secondly, God’s people have “hewed them out broken cisterns that can hold no water.” What this boils down to is, Christianity in America has become part of the American culture through systematic “dumbing down” of Christians, while at the same time exalting man and his traditions, instead of God and His ways. There is no longer a distinct separation between the Church and the world.

   Jesus, as “the way, the truth and the life” is the only “water” that God’s sheep need. “Unless the Lord build the house, they labour in vain who build it” Psalm 127:1. But, in spite of what the Bible says, man insists on employing vain, worldly methods in order to build churches through entertainment, or “seeker-friendly” watered-down, “purpose-driven” unscriptural platitudes, programs, humanistic methodology, and truckloads of charismatic showmanship and hype. Modern churches now build elaborate McDonald-type play areas for children in keeping with the new push to guarantee that church attendance is a socially fun experience from the cradle to the grave.  But the Lord says: “To whom shall I speak, and give warning, that they may hear? Behold, their ear is uncircumcised, and they cannot hearken: behold, the word of the LORD is unto them a reproach; they have no delight in it” Jeremiah 6:10.

    Jesus’ command to “make disciples” (to Him) is ignored in the rush to make disciples to a particular belief, doctrine or creed, popular leader with a ‘big name” with his own agenda, or to a contemporary church, in order to give the appearance of success through numbers and multiplied wealth. While the discerning Christian can point fingers at the many individual false prophets, wolves in sheep’s clothing, heretics and hireling shepherds littering the landscape today, they could not continue to exist if God’s people did not continue to exalt and support these “clouds…without water, carried about of winds…”(See Jude 12).

   The Apostle Peter wrote of such: “But there were false prophets also among the people, even as there shall be false teachers among you, who privily shall bring in damnable heresies, even denying the Lord that bought them, and bring upon themselves swift destruction. And many shall follow their pernicious ways; by reason of whom the way of truth shall be evil spoken of. And through covetousness shall they with feigned words make merchandise of you: whose judgment now of a long time lingereth not, and their damnation slumbereth not” 2 Peter 2:1-3.

   Making merchandise of God’s people is big business, as every movie producer, publishing house, those in the music industry, artist, jeweler, and toy and gadget maker knows. On a recent visit to a particular nation-wide book store that sports as part of its name “Christian,” we failed to find anything in the entire children’s section that represented the God of the Bible in a holy and realistic way that would bring inspiration, awe, reverence, and a desire to know Him, except some worship CD’s. It was all meaningless, silly and downright dumb. God tells us to bring up our children in the fear of the Lord, through godly nurture and admonition. Children are not stupid. Early impressions are lasting impressions. There is absolutely nothing about vegetables and cartoon characters that will instill into a child’s spirit the awe, wonder and truths of Holy Scripture, or of the true character and attributes of our God and Savior But, it does set up the idea that Bible stories and the Christian life are simply on a par with Disney characters and cartoon heroes which don’t have any great importance in “real” life. If such nonsense is necessary in order to raise up children to be sold-out Christians for Christ then how did generations of children throughout the ages develop into godly men and women?

   Besides all the latest “religious” gimmicks that are designed to suck up a Christian’s resources, it goes without saying that the race to build the biggest church, regardless of the cost, tops the list. “Is this house, which is called by my name, become a den of robbers in your eyes? Behold, even I have seen it, saith the LORD” Jeremiah 7:11. (See John 2:16.)

   This is the world’s way of doing things, and it cannot be backed by Scripture. Jesus never told His disciples to go out and be “successful” by making a big name for themselves, thus accumulating enough wealth to stagger the imagination, or to build bigger buildings, or to spend years learning all the tricks of the trade. He never organized a people skills company, or so-called “ministry” designed to teach pastors how to “grow” their churches. He never hired a staff of psychologists, strategists, or specialists, so that His church could be segmented into so many factions that the entire biblical example of the “entire congregation” was nonexistent. (See Exodus 35:1.) Jesus nowhere commanded His followers to build seminaries for the purpose of exalting the clergy over the laity (Nicolaitanism) with the result that both men and women who are truly called of God are shut out of mainstream ministry because they don’t have the “proper credentials” in order to serve Him. This is nothing less than modern Phariseeism.

   Finally, those self-proclaimed false prophets, hireling shepherds, and “experts” in spiritual matters who are idolized by their countless fans do untold damage to the cause of Christ, and bring a reproach on the Gospel, and to the Body of Christ, as well as true missionary outreach. The millions of dollars that these thieves and robbers bilk out of undiscerning, careless and ignorant Christians greatly hinder and limit the work of small ministries and churches, not to mention the crippling effect on international missions, along with a diminishment of aid to the poor.

   God has not blessed the Church in America with great wealth (which is the envy of the world) in order for it to be squandered in self-serving pursuits or to be carelessly flung into the coffers of deceitful workers. Paul warned of this in 2 Corinthians 11:13-15: “For such are false apostles, deceitful workers, transforming themselves into the apostles of Christ. And no marvel; for Satan himself is transformed into an angel of light. Therefore it is no great thing if his ministers also be transformed as the ministers of righteousness; whose end shall be according to their works.”

   One can only ask why multitudes of people, who name the name of Christ, have forsaken the true fountain of living waters, and dug for themselves broken cisterns that can hold no water. Jeremiah’s words ring as true today as they did in his time: “The prophets prophesy falsely, and the priests bear rule by their means; and my people love to have it so: and what will ye do in the end thereof” Jeremiah 5:31. The very idolatrous system that Martin Luther and the Reformers rebelled against has reestablished itself under the guise of a multitude of titles that do little more than give an identifying label to members. May I remind the reader that there are no such denominational labels in heaven.

   Just a few of the similarities between the Roman Catholic Church and Protestantism today are: 1) adoration of and loyalty to leaders, or the “church,” regardless of how empty, shallow and meaningless their preaching is, or how immoral their lifestyles may be, 2) the belief that to get closer to God one needs to go through a leader, 3) blind obedience to manmade rules, regulations, and traditions unique to that particular church or group (but which were unknown in the New Testament Church), 4) fear of losing one’s salvation if one should question the authority of the leader or church, or leave it altogether, 5) financially supporting the institution out of duty, rather than asking God where to give, 6) disassociation with members who leave that particular church at God’s direction, 7) the belief that your particular church or group is the only one that is “right,” 8) superstition and belief that anything “supernatural” is of God, 9) attraction to anything religious, regardless of how extra biblical it may be (such as the movie, “The Passion), 10) the belief that suffering and good works somehow add to one’s hope of salvation.

   Yet, in spite of this separation from Spirit and Truth, people declare: “…There is no hope: but we will walk after our own devices, and we will every one do the imagination of his evil heart” Jeremiah 18:12.

   What about you? Are you content to be a “fan” of some leader who feeds your flesh by making you feel good? Or, maybe you are among those who follow along out of habit and tradition, and who is “Ever learning, and never able to come to the knowledge of the truth” 2 Timothy 3:7. Perhaps you are unstable, and double-minded, “…tossed to and fro, and carried about with every wind of doctrine, by the sleight of men, and cunning craftiness, whereby they lie in wait to deceive” Ephesians 4:14. Perhaps you are one who “will not endure sound doctrine; but after their own lusts shall they heap to themselves teachers, having itching ears; And they shall turn away their ears from the truth, and shall be turned unto fables” 2 Timothy 4:3,4.

   Jeremiah summed it up this way: “O LORD, the hope of Israel, all that forsake thee shall be ashamed, and they that depart from me shall be written in the earth, because they have forsaken the LORD, the fountain of living waters.”

   Hopefully, you have not forsaken the fountain of Living Waters, and you are one of God’s sheep—simply a Christian who has no dependency and identification outside of Jesus. However, if you are one whose spirit is thirsty and dry from trying in vain to drink from broken cisterns, the Lord has this beautiful invitation for you: “Ho, every one that thirsteth, come ye to the waters, and he that hath no money; come ye, buy, and eat; yea, come, buy wine, and milk without money and without price. Wherefore do ye spend money for that which is not bread? And your labour for that which satisfieth not? Hearken diligently unto me, and eat ye that which is good, and let your soul delight itself in fatness. Incline your ear, and come unto me: hear, and your soul shall live; and I will make an everlasting covenant with you, even the sure mercies of David” Isaiah 55:1-3.

   Will you come now to Jesus who has promised you, “But whosoever drinketh of the water that I shall give him shall never thirst; but the water that I shall give him shall be in him a well of water springing up into everlasting life” John 4:14. You will never thirst again!